- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A state lawmaker who lost a congressional bid earlier this year wants to change primary election rules in Iowa so voters decide certain contested races, rather than political party delegates.

Sen. Brad Zaun, an Urbandale Republican, said Tuesday that he has submitted a bill to change the primary process if no candidate receives 35 percent of the vote. Under his plan - which would impact congressional and state legislative races as well as statewide offices including governor - there would be a runoff election between the top two vote-getters.

Currently, when no candidate meets the primary threshold, party delegates pick a nominee.

Zaun received the most votes in a six-way Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District earlier this year. But because no one hit the threshold, the process moved to a nominating convention, where fifth-place finisher David Young won after many rounds of voting. Young went on to win the general election in November.

“Daily, I hear from people: ‘Hey I really thought what happened was wrong,’” Zaun said. “The people who spoke on primary day didn’t feel like they were heard.”

Congressman-elect Young’s chief of staff did not immediately respond to an email for comment.

Zaun is optimistic his bill will find support in the Iowa Legislature, where Democrats control the Senate and Republicans have a majority in the House.

Sen. Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls who chairs the Senate state government committee, said he’ll make sure the bill gets a hearing. Danielson said he supports the general concept but cannot speak for other Democrats in the Senate.

“I believe it’s a debate we should have,” he said. “I personally favor the most Democratic process that we can get. Currently it’s an insiders’ game.”

Rep. Guy Vander Linden, a Republican from Oskaloosa who chairs the House state government committee, said he’s not sure about such a change.

“I feel strongly both ways,” Vander Linden said. “I think it’s always good when the people make a decision. On the other hand, we’re talking about the expense of an election. … I don’t know for sure. I want to know more.”

Jimmy Centers, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, said in a statement that the governor is “open to considering such a proposal should it pass both chambers of the Iowa Legislature, but he believes the present system is working.”

Iowa Republican Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a text message that he has not seen the bill and needs to consult with other party leaders before commenting.

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